Maven: Google Bears?

Insiders definitely aren't buying. Plus, Bristling-With-Trouble-Myers.
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How much for that beleaguered drugmaker in the window?

Before we get on to the important business of this morning's news, let's start off by going way, way back in history, to Saturday.

It was then that

The Wall Street Journal

reported that Bristling-With-Trouble-Myers -- also known as

Bristol-Myers

(BMY) - Get Report

-- with its stock near a 10-year low, is

ripe for a takeover

.

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Before the blessed event happens (and long-term note to readers: forget blessed, pharmaceutical companies have a pretty cursed history when it comes to merging), Peter Dolan, the CEO who has had a most difficult five-year tenure, should be dropped. "Given his past record, it would be unwise to leave any merger negotiations to Mr. Dolan," the

Journal

writes. Ouch, it sure knows how to hurt a guy.

Glaxo

(GSK) - Get Report

,

Novartis

(NVS) - Get Report

and

Sanofi-Aventis

(SNY) - Get Report

are named as possible suitors.

Search "least-loved CEOs" on

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

and who knows? Mr. Dolan's name might pop up a few thousand times.

But it is Google itself that I want to highlight right now. Specifically, let's look at two separate articles on insider selling. One tells us something that we really don't need to know, devoting only a single sentence to what we do need to know. The other puts the emphasis in the right place.

The

Financial Times

tells

us that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have been selling stock since the IPO and haven't bought any, even with the company's nearly 20% drop from a peak of $475 this January.

This, though, is the right of any founder. Indeed, it's one big reason companies come public. Many of these sales were part of a predetermined stock sale plan.

And despite the slight breathlessness in the

FT

about the drop in Google's stock price -- it cherry-picked January's high and closed by noting that shares fell 1.2% on Friday (say it ain't so, Sergey) -- the article devotes only one sentence to the issue The Business Press Maven cares about:

In the past year and a half, no Google executive has bought shares.

By contrast, this important fact gets three paragraphs' worth of treatment in a

Bloomberg

story

on the same subject.

Bloomberg

also puts the selling in an appropriately less nefarious light by not cherry-picking the year's high. It says, simply and responsibly, that the stock is down about 7% this year.

Bloomberg

was more concerned where it counted, emphasizing the lack of wider insider buying. But it wasn't alarmist in nature, making it seem as if Page and Brin were bailing out on a sinking ship. Bristol, this ain't.

When a headline references the musical

Hairspray

and the lead goes on to allude to Neil Sedaka, well, it's caught my attention.

And it's a good thing, because in addition to going song-reference happy,

Barron's

turned in a

good story

on

Ameriprise Financial

(AMP) - Get Report

, the financial biggie spun off by

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

last year.

It had some trouble getting its footing, but has since thrived. It will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to market wrap accounts and annuities, I know I'll stay alive...

OK, so you are a contrarian investor. But are you a contrarian investor brash enough to jump into a Web casino stock, what with an industry leader cooling his heels under house arrest in a country far from his house?

Anyone up for a voluble ride should first check out this morning's

primer

on the current state of the absurdity in this business in

The New York Times

.

Speaking of primers, no one should be without one on the Pension Protection Act of 2006, signed last week by President Bush.

Start with something short from

CFO.com

, which summarizes a Moody's report succinctly.

In general: The additional borrowing needed to fund pensions won't affect credit ratings because it's the same dif between pension-related debt and contractual debt. Things might get a little hairier, warned Moody's (which did not use the word "hairier"), for companies in less secure financial straits that might need to seek waivers on current credit agreements.

With competition emerging to the iPod,

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

is taking no chances with the public.

Business Week

reports

that the company released a paper addressing accusations that it uses Chinese labor working in poor conditions to make its instant little icons.

Apple claimed that the conditions were mostly peachy, but admitted to what it described as some problems having to do with its plant operator not adhering to Apple policies. Paging board member Al Gore, paging board member Al Gore.

And as part of the case study I am building on the feasibility of turning around a company with a lot of (literally) moving parts, another

update

from the

Six Flags

(SIX) - Get Report

front this morning from the

Chicago Tribune

.

Hurricane Harbor, the company's Illinois-based water park, was reopened after a big four-day closing for water quality tests after visitors became ill. The company claims the water was not at fault, but can you imagine a business with more variables? If they can turn this thing around, I say put 'em in charge of Bristol.

And speaking of variables, while the real estate market has certainly turned for the worse,

The New York Daily News

reports

with a groaner of headline, that interest is (sorry) booming in at least one section of the Upper East Side of Manhattan; specifically, the now-vacant piece of land made so when Dr. Nicholas Bartha, aka Dr. Boom, exploded his brownstone to spite his ex-wife.

Anyhow, with so few open lots on what is known as Manhattan's Gold Coast, interest in the property has apparently been brisk, reports the

News

. Every market, The Business Press Maven's mother always told him, has its exceptions.

A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children.